IB Physics Exam Breakdown of Exam Content [UPDATED 2020-2021]

 

IB Physics Exam Breakdown (2020-21)

STOP INEFFICIENT REVISION NOW FOR YOUR IB PHYSICS EXAMS!

Shocking Fact! Not all topics in IB Physics are represented equally in the final exams and you must be strategic to maximise marks and minimise effort.

If your aim is to get good marks in your IB Physics exams then you need to study strategically. This means you should have a ‘plan of action’ for your exam revision. This plan should be based on evidence and calculated hunches. I'll walk you through a detailed plan below, but if you'd like a free workbook and full video tutorial - click here.

I get it. You don’t have the time or resources to build out a ‘plan of action’ based on evidence and calculated hunches. What does that even mean??

Good news. I’ve got time.

Great news! I’ve built out a ‘plan of action’ and revision strategy for you and it starts with prioritising the most heavily examined concepts (see below!). The 13 minute video above will help but I highly recommend you watch it AND complete your own IB Physics revision workbook to get maximum help from me.

Prioritise These Topics

The first part of our ‘plan of action’ is to focus on longer term revision. Let’s focus on the weeks and months before the exams.

The graphs below show the average percentage that each topic in IB Physics makes up of your final IB mark. 

STANDARD LEVEL

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This means that if you are a Standard Level student and only ever studied Topic 2: Mechanics then you could achieve a whopping 14% in your final IB Physics exam! That’s without ever touching an internal assessment or option topic! Now.... you and I both know that you are not going to adopt that strategy. However, it’s certainly worth spending more time on Topic 2 than Topic 6.

The first part of your strategic ‘plan of action’ is to revise the Standard Level topics in the following order:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 1: Measurements and Uncertainties
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 7: Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Topic 8: Energy Production
  • Topic 3: Thermal Physics
  • Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation
HIGHER LEVEL

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For a Higher Level student, it’s tempting to forget about Topic 6 altogether - isn’t it? You certainly don’t want to spend weeks revising Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation for the sake of 1% in your final IB Physics mark...

The first part of your strategic ‘plan of action’ is to revise the Higher Level topics in the following order:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 1: Measurements and Uncertainties
  • Topic 12: Nuclear and Quantum Physics
  • Topic 11: Electromagnetic Induction
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 9: Wave Phenomena
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 10: Fields
  • Topic 3: Thermal Physics
  • Topic 7: Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Topic 8: Energy Production
  • Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation

Recommendations

  1. You want to start by making sure you have thoroughly understood the most heavily examined concepts listed above, either during lessons or when working independently at home. Make revision notes on these. Click here if you need help on how to write effective revision notes
  2. The material in your option topic is worth 11.4% (SL) and 16.0% (HL) of your final IB Physics mark. Many teachers choose to leave the option topic until the end of the course. You can get ahead by studying your option topic in advance.
  3. If you are struggling with the most heavily examined topics, you can overcome these difficulties in a few hours with the right strategies.


NOTE for May 2021 Students: You will not sit Paper 3 in May 2021 and the weightings below will be altered slightly to accommodate this.


Strategies for Paper 1

At the end of your two year course, you will sit three papers for IB Physics. Each paper has its own quirks and trends that we can use to revise strategically using our ‘plan of action’. This will allow you to maximise your marks and prevent you from wasting time on inefficient revision in your short term revision (i.e. days/weeks before exams).

FACTS about Paper 1:

  • The Standard Level (SL) paper is 45 minutes long and has 30 multiple choice questions. It makes up 20% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • The Higher Level (HL) paper is 1 hour long and has 40 multiple choice questions. It makes up 20% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • No calculator is allowed but you can use the IB Physics data booklet
  • Paper 1 is designed to be difficult and around 50% of questions required multiple steps.
  • Grade boundaries are usually quite low for Paper 1 (Averaging around 72% for a 7 in HL and 63% for a 7 in SL)

Heavily Examined Topics in SL Paper 1:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 7: Atomic, Nuclear and Particle Physics

Heavily Examined Topics in HL Paper 1:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topics 4 & 9: Waves
  • Topic 11: Electromagnetic Induction
  • Topic 12: Quantum and Nuclear Physics

Top Tip!
There is usually only ONE mark available to Topic 1 (Measurement and Uncertainties) in Paper 1. Don’t bother revising Topic 1 too much when preparing for Paper 1.

ADVICE for Paper 1

  • Prioritise the most commonly examined topics above in your revision
  • Use gradegorrilla.com to practice multiple choice questions for the most commonly examined topics.
  • You only have between 1-1.5 minutes per question – skip if you really don’t know where to start.
  • Don’t panic


Strategies for Paper 2

Many IB Physics students have had nightmares about Paper 2. Let’s break it down and see if we can be strategic about how to prepare for Paper 2 in the shorter term (i.e. the weeks and days before the exam)

FACTS about Paper 2:

  • The Standard Level Paper takes 1.25 hours and is worth 50 marks. It makes up 40% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • The Higher Level Papers takes 2.25 hours and is worth 95 marks. It makes up 36% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • It consists of short-answer and extended response questions
  • Calculators are allowed and the data booklet is necessary!
  • It is designed to be difficult and you probably won’t finish it...
  • Grade boundaries are usually very low for paper 2 (Averaging around 59% for a 7 in HL and around 63% for a 7 in SL)

Heavily Examined Topics in SL Paper 2:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 3: Thermal Physics

Heavily Examined Topics in HL Paper 2:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topics 4 & 9: Waves
  • Topics 5 & 11: Electromagnetism
  • Topic 12: Quantum and Nuclear Physics

Top Tip!
It is likely that there will be no questions on Topic 1 (Measurements and Uncertainties) in Paper 2.

ADVICE for Paper 2

  • Prioritise the most commonly examined topics from above in your revision
  • Practice exam-style questions fully in the weeks before the exam. Here's how to use IB Physics past papers to improve your exam technique.
  • Choose the question order carefully.
  • Skip a question if you really don’t know where to start.
  • Identify the topic of the question and open your data booklet to that topic.
  • If you’re stuck on a graph – you’ll most likely have to calculate the gradient or area
  • Be careful with units on graph axes (e.g. mA instead of A)
  • Don’t panic


Strategies for Paper 3


NOTE for May 2021 Students: You will not sit Paper 3 in May 2021 and the weightings below will be altered slightly to accommodate this.


Paper 3 is often examined the day after Paper 1 & 2. Students usually find it to be a welcome relief from the exertions of the previous day. I can help make it even easier for you...

FACTS about Paper 3:

  • The Standard Level paper will be 1 hour long and is worth 35 marks. The whole paper makes up 20% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • The Higher Level paper will be 1.25 hours long and is worth 45 marks. The whole paper makes up 20% of your final IB Physics mark.
  • The paper is made up of short-answer and extended response questions
  • You are allowed a calculator and data booklet
  • Paper 3 is much easier than Papers 1 and 2
  • It is split up into sections:
    • One data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work.
    • Short-answer and extended-response questions from one option.

Breakdown of SL Paper 3:
Section A
- It is only 15 marks
- Worth 9% of your final IB Physics mark
- All about Topic 1 (Measurements and Uncertainties) and the list of required practicals given by the IB (see Strategy 3).

Section B
- It is only 20 marks
- Worth 11% of your final IB Physics mark - All about your chosen Option Topic

Breakdown of HL Paper 3:
Section A
- It is only 15 marks
- Worth 7% of your final IB Physics mark
- All about Topic 1 (Measurements and Uncertainties) and the list of required practicals given by the IB.

Section B
- It is only 30 marks
- Worth 13% of your final IB Physics mark - All about your chosen Option Topic

ADVICE for Paper 3

  • Learn ALL the definitions for Topic 1 AND Option topic
  • Open your data booklet to the right page for your option topic
  • Practice as many past papers for your option topic as you can – the examiners tend to ask the same questions over and over again

Top Tip!

Use the night before the exam to:
• Memorise definitions from Topic 1 and your option topic
• Read through all the practicals you have done in class
• Read through your revision notes for Topic 1 and your Option Topic. Click here if you’d like to learn how to write effective revision notes QUICKLY


CONCLUSION

Start being strategic in your revision and you’ll be more efficient and effective in your results. In the months and weeks before the exams, prioritise the most heavily examined topics. You’ll want to make effective revision notes on these topics and practice exam-style questions, split by topic.

In the weeks preceding the exams, your study strategy will alter slightly, depending on the intricacies of each paper. Past papers will become a focus of revision and the most heavily examined topics will change.

Have fun!

 

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